“Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today,” sang Pink Floyd way back in 1971. I’ll take a stab at saying this is not true. It’s the lack of money, now that’s evil.

Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat no less, has me worried. Recently he proposed cutting $1.4 billion from California’s higher education system, arguably the best in the nation and producer of such corporate entrepreneurial behemoths as Google, Yahoo, Apple, E-bay, Oracle, Cisco, Advanced Micro Devices, and for the old school corporate followers, Walt Disney Corp, Lockheed, Kaiser – oh the list is just long, amazing, and all either direct or indirect products of California’s universities and colleges. The reason this state is called “Golden” comes via the ability of California-based companies to directly pluck from the state’s university system the best and brightest minds. Additionally, these best and brightest minds often start their own companies deeming corporations as too antiquated, slow and bureaucratic to take advantage of ideas (Google and Apple are such entrepreneurial cases). California companies grow, create, manufacture, produce, sell and thrive – or make gold, so to speak – because of the talent the state’s university system produces. In turn, these corporations pay employees who buy homes, furniture, cars, eat out, and pay property taxes which in turn re-circulates – in addition to adding – funds to further invest in the future of the state.

However, this symbiotic relationship has defaulted over the years, especially after the landmark passage of Proposition 13, in 1978. Let me make clear that I do not blame the measure for California’s woes. 1978 was a long time ago and the state threw away numerous chances to find ways to accrue revenue streams that did not fully burden and fall upon the common citizen. More likely, blame must be turned toward California’s dysfunctional political system, including its “legislating via ballot initiatives” process, which has produced an alchemy of bad policies transforming the once Golden State into a modicum of lead-weighted and bonded debt.

And it is precisely this dysfunctional political system that aims to remove yet another $1.4 billion from the state’s higher education system. It’s also Governor Brown’s intent to abuse, once more, the flawed “legislating by ballot initiative” process by asking California voters to raise taxes on themselves. But before that can occur, California legislators must first admit they are incapable of making decisions and not for reasons of political ideology, although this plays a role. In addition to the flawed ballot initiative process, the two-thirds majority rule creates too high a barrier by which effective legislation can occur. Irony of ironies, it will take a two-thirds vote by legislatures to put the tax raising initiative before the voters – something, given the Republican love affair with the word “No,” is not likely to occur.

All of this misses the bigger picture. The California university system, the pride of the state, the Ivy League of the West, feeds fifty-seven of the country’s Fortune 500 companies (more than Texas, 56; New York, 55; or Florida, 15 – the other top four most populated states). Put another way, 11.4% of America’s top corporations headquarter in California and continue to find gold by way of California’s ivory towers.

The greatest lie that’s been perpetrated by the political right in this state is that our tax system drives companies to do business elsewhere. If that were the case, then why do the majority of Fortune 500 companies conduct their business in California?

The biggest lie from the political left is that we can cut the 2011 higher education system back to budgetary levels ala 1998, although 78,000 more students are in the system, and still function.  That’s approximately $18,000 per gained student gone – and it gets worse. If Republicans block placing the tax raising initiative in front of the voters, something they are likely to do, or if – by miracle – voters do have a say and yet say no, the Governor has promised to slash yet another $1.4 billion from higher education.

I may not be the world’s smartest man, but I know enough that when a garden is planted you don’t go cutting off the spigot. Our universities, colleges, and junior colleges have produced, continue to produce, and will produce gold for this state – but they do need watering and fertilizer. Allowing the garden to die, kills the allure of the state, and turns California into the next Mississippi (I apologize to my friends from the Deep South. By the way, the number of Mississippi-based Fortune 500 companies equals zero).

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